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Avoid A DUI This Fourth of July Weekend!

July 4th is a huge day of celebration in the United States. With this come beach parties, campouts, picnics, food, fireworks and often a day filled with sun and alcohol. Unfortunately, it’s become one of the deadliest days on our roads each year. According to NHTSA, from 2008-2012, 765 people were killed in the U.S. in crashes with drivers that had a BAC level of .08% or more. It’s also a time of year when we see an increase in underage male drivers bucking the rules and drinking and driving as well.

In a united effort to keep communities safe, law enforcement agencies across the country will be increasing the number of officers dedicated to DUI enforcement from July 3 – July 7th this year. We at the AJ Novick Group, Inc. tell you this with the intention of reminding you not to drink and drive this holiday weekend. If you plan on partaking, leave the car at home and take a walk instead!

Some advice to consider before the day begins:

1. Make a plan before you start drinking. Pick a designated driver who is truly committed to staying sober, have a taxi service number on hand so you don’t have to figure it out late at night, or have a family member or friend on call to come pick you up.

2. Check into local community sober ride programs. Simply type in Ride Safe programs, sober rides and even some local taxi services will have free services available. Uber will even be donating $1.00 to MADD for every ride taken between 6 a.m. on July 4th and 6 a.m. on July 5th.

3. Purposefully put your cell phone out of reach. The additional temptation is a recipe for disaster.

4. Be on the lookout for impaired drivers. Call the police and avoid driving in the vicinity if you notice someone tailgating, drifting in and out of traffic lanes, almost striking or actually striking any objects, swerving, off-roading or driving on the wrong side of the road.

If you feel like you are just a “little buzzed” you are still at risk and getting a DUI is no fun. The punishments vary throughout the country but you can generally expect a traffic fine of anywhere between $300 and $10,000 depending on the BAC level and any previous offenses. The cost of having your vehicle towed away and impounded until you can have someone get it – usually about $50.00 for towing and $100.00 per day for impound. Legal fees of anywhere from $2,000 - $8,000 based on where you live. Your insurance premiums will go up about $1,000 a year, if you aren’t cancelled altogether. And, the cost of in-person or online alcohol awareness classes. This too varies from an 8-hour class to a 3 month required class for license reinstatement in California. Aside from all the financial aspects of the bad decision, you’ll have to miss work for court appearances, have community service obligations and possible job loss if driving is required for your employment. It’s time consuming, embarrassing and a major hassle and that’s if you haven’t actually hurt anyone else in the process. Stay safe this Fourth of July and make a pledge to not get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking.

AB541 Classes Are Available Online With Prior Approval

DUI classes are a key component in the sanctioning for those who have received a DUI or DWI offense. The programs are designed to be an educational component to teach drivers the importance of staying alcohol and drug free when getting behind the wheel. According to MADD, over 1.2 million drivers were arrested in 2011 for DUI. Males were more likely than females to drive under the influence and the highest percentage of DUI offenses was for the 21 – 24 age range. The good news is that with increased awareness, the number of alcohol related fatalities has been reduced from 26,173 in 1982 to close to 10,000 in 2011. California is the most flagrant offender, topping the list of states with the highest number of fatalities due to alcohol in 2011.

In California, we spend a lot of time behind the wheel. There are between 27.5 million and 32 million registered motor vehicles and the average Californian drives approximately 13,600 miles per year! That is about 1.5 times what the national average is. It’s the nature of the geography and public transportation woes. California is the 3rd largest state in the nation after Alaska and Texas and just doesn’t have the rail system in place to accommodate commuters like other places like Chicago and NYC do. The Metro system we do have in place is limited and it generally requires at least one line transfer to get from one place to another. While in New York, one swipe of the subway card gets you onto all the lines, in California riders must pay each time they transfer stations. As a result of this expense and inconvenience, Californians tend to make the decision to drive their own cars instead.

Another issue is that it’s not always easy to get a taxi. You can’t hail one down on the street corner, so you have to be prepared with a phone number to call to order one. We’ve had friends wait at a bar late at night almost an hour until one finally showed up. The hassle factor once again sends people stumbling over to their parked cars, even if they’ve had too much to drink.

However, getting a DUI in California is absolutely no fun. The state takes the offense very seriously. If you are a first time offender, you can expect a huge out of pocket expense and many hours spent dealing with the conviction. Specifically, you will lose your drivers license for at least a month, serve some jail time, pay fines, fulfill community service and be required to pay for and take a 3 month, 30 hour in-person alcohol education program. If you have a California driver’s license and received the DUI in California, the state mandates in-person classes rather than taking them online.

If you are in California for business or pleasure and possess and out of state license and are pulled over for a DUI offense, what do you do? You obviously can’t come back to the state to take a class on a weekly basis. In this case you should check with your attorney. California courts are sometimes willing to accept online AB541 classes to fulfill requirements, while residing in your home state. In this case, you first get prior approval to take the program online, then register and take the 32 hour educationally based program from any Internet connected computer device at your own pace.

Alcohol Education Classes for Boating Under the Influence

After a long winter in doors, we all look forward to the warm, sunny and longer days of summertime! This combination also brings with it barbeques, boating, pool parties and beach days. In this relaxed atmosphere, people often enjoy alcoholic beverages to cool down, relax and quench their thirst from the heat. In fact, about 40% of all the beer sold in the U.S. is purchased from June – September. What many people don’t realize is that hot temperatures and alcohol is actually a recipe for disaster.

Many of us imagine a perfect vacation day sitting by the pool with a cocktail. While you may think that drinking ice-cold beers while you are hanging out on the boat in the sun all day is keeping you hydrated, alcohol is a diuretic. It actually blocks the body’s ability to release a hormone necessary for water absorption. This results in increased urination, which in turn leads to dehydration. Some signs of dehydration include dry lips, headaches, weakness, nausea, dark colored urine, dizziness and muscle cramps.

Drinking alcoholic beverages in the heat contributes to a reduction in strength and power, making you weaker than usual. It also interferes with balance and coordination and reduces decision-making skills. People take more risks under the influence and do crazy things like jump in the water when a propeller is still spinning or dive in the ocean near rocks. In fact, the CDC reports that about 50% of all adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation are related to alcohol use and about 1/3 of all boating accidents involve alcohol. Individuals who have been drinking also tend to lose focus and children can more easily wander off unnoticed and get themselves in harms way.

Almost every state now enforces a legal limit of .08% blood alcohol concentration while operating boats as well as other motor vehicles. The affects of wind, sun, glare and motion on the water contributes to something called “boaters hypnosis”. It’s natural that someone who has been on board a boat for as little as 4 hours exhibits a slower reaction time. This fact in combination with alcohol creates a dangerous combination.  If found guilty of a BUI (boating under the influence), most states impose fines, revocation of the boating license, jail time and probation are considered and a recommendation of an alcohol education program can also be expected. 

The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators is working with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and the Coast Guard to spread awareness about the dangers of drinking and boating. Operation Dry Water will take place the weekend prior to the Fourth of July, June 27-29 th to target and reduce BUI’s. More than 510 agencies across the nation are expected to participate in this joint effort to keep our waters safer.

So to stay safe this summer, turn to a cold glass of water when spending time out in the sun with family and friends.

Ways Parents Can Help Support Drug and Alcohol Free Teen Years

Parenting a teenager can seem stressful in the moment. They are searching for their identity and look to their peers more and more for validation and support. However, it’s not the time for parents to give up or in because you don’t feel like you have control anymore. Research shows that teens are still strongly influenced by their families and the guidance and role modeling you provide is critical to the decisions that they make. It’s an incredibly important time to learn effective communication skills to help get your teen to listen and discuss what’s going on in their life. Trying to over-parent or “helicopter” or being too harsh might send them running in the opposite direction but asking the right questions, listening closely to the answers and giving appropriate direction can make a huge difference.

There are many issues that will come up during these crucial years, from problems with friends, grades, and boyfriends/girlfriends to drugs and alcohol. This is a time when kids can succumb to peer pressure to feel like they fit in and try high-risk activities. There are some things as a primary caregiver, older sister/brother, aunt/uncle or parent that you can do to support a drug and alcohol free adolescence.

1. Talk to your kids from an early age about alcohol and drug education. The younger the child is when they first try illegal substances, the harder it will be to quit later on.

2. Be clear about your stance on not using alcohol or drugs. What are your expectations? Explain risks and repercussions of use and abuse and what the consequences they will face at home will be.

3. Discuss a plan for avoidance. If your child isn’t comfortable just saying no, many parents find that the drug testing excuse helps. Teens can put the blame on their parents by telling their friends that they can’t drink or do drugs because their parents drug test at home. Drug test kits can be purchased at most pharmacies and chain stores.

4. Tell them they should never, ever drink and drive or get into a car with someone who has been drinking and here is why – according to the CDC in 2010, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol impaired driving accidents.

5. Listen closely to what your child is trying to say. Name their emotions to make sure you are hearing correctly. For example, “I can see that you are intimidated” or “I can see that you are frustrated with your group of friends right now”. Ask if this correct to keep the conversation going.

6. Validate their feelings. Try to avoid being judgmental, but tell them you understand what they are saying and then share your perspective.

7. If they make a mistake, don’t write it off to “kids will be kids”. Intervene right away and explain your reasons for concern. Let him/her tell their side of the story. Work together to come up with the appropriate way the child should have handled the situation.

8. Get to know other parents. Clarify that they are on the same page as you and will not tolerate drug or alcohol in their homes. Work together to help keep each other’s kids out of trouble.

Dispelling Some Myths About Drug Abuse

After listening to our teenager and her friends talk about drugs, I recently realized that even with the health class they take in high school, our many conversations about drugs and the information they get from media, they still weren’t clear on some aspects of drug use and abuse. I stopped the conversation they were having to interject a few key points and was glad I happened to be there to help dispel the myths. They all knew that drug use is a significant problem in our society. They hear about it and are sometimes exposed to it at school. They have a close friend who recently moved to Colorado and can’t get over how marijuana is legal there for people over 21 so now she's seeing adults use it regularly. The messages seem unclear and they were mystified as to why anyone would become an addict. One of them whipped out her Health class notes to show us that that according to SMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2009, approximately 23.5 million people over the age of 12 needed treatment for a drug or alcohol problem.

I started out by explaining that anyone can be a drug abuser. It’s not necessarily the kid that sits in the back of the class, doesn’t make eye contact and is flunking out. And, you don’t have to come from a family of drug abusers to become one. Many addicts have high paying, high profile jobs, are leaders in a school environment and/or come from good families. Somehow they make it through by hiding it or by the support of enabling family members, friends, bosses or co-workers. The people around them cover up when they are late or hung over, help them complete school or work projects and generally keep them afloat.

It was apparent that they had spent a great deal of time talking about illegal drugs in Health class like marijuana, cocaine, heroine and even PCP, but they weren’t as familiar with everyday prescription drug abuse. They all generally thought that if a doctor prescribes medication for you, then it’s safe to take. I pointed out that as many as 16 million people abuse prescription drugs in the U.S. every year. What happens is that a teenager or adult starts out with an injury of some kind. For example, it could be one of them getting hurt in soccer, volleyball or while competing in track and field. They go to the doctor to find out how to proceed whether it’s a cast or rest, and end up with a prescription like Vicodin or Oxycontin to help the pain go away. In most situations, Ibuprofen should be enough until it heals. Parents may be unaware that drugs like those named are in the same class of drugs as heroin and can be extremely addictive and are often times totally unnecessary so they go ahead and give them the meds. This is where it starts and some find that they can’t or don’t want to stop because it makes them feel high. When they can't get their prescriptions refilled anymore, they start to purchase the "legal" drugs illegally from dealers.

The other question that came up was why anyone would choose to be a drug addict? Why would they keep going back for more if they saw their life was coming apart? It just seems so ridiculous, especially for people like Lindsay Lohan who seem to have so much going for them. This was a key point because I explained that people don’t “choose” to become addicted. What they do is choose to try and use drugs to begin with. They want to fit in, and then find that they like the way it makes them feel and don’t want to stop. With prolonged use, the drugs change body and brain chemistry and they can’t overcome the desire without intervention. So, take some time to talk to your adolescents about drugs and alcohol use. You also might find that they are unsure of what it all means.